Home > cosmology, neuroscience, Perception, philosophy, psychology, science, universe > Zooming in on Reductionism and Extremely Gendered Brains

Zooming in on Reductionism and Extremely Gendered Brains


istock_connecting-the-dots functional_view

One of the greatest obstacles to understanding the hard problem of consciousness and the explanatory gap between function and qualia is that we are psychologically conditioned to overlook the destructive compression of reductionism.

Only a person who is familiar with the shape of the State of Texas can fully understand the connect the dots image shown above. I have included an intermediate image between ‘potential Texas’ and the Functional View to show how even a shift in perspective can make identification impossible. In the end, no identification at all is necessary fro a machine to logically connect one dot to the next in an n+1 sequence. No matter how many dots are connected, it is just the same mechanical action. No geometry or memory is required, just a machine that logically associate one point of data with the next.

When we build computations out of that, we can step back and look at all of the dots and say “yes, the computer is drawing Texas, therefore it might know what Texas is.” or “surely the more complex the arrangement of dots, the more likely it is that a computer could develop geometry and visual experiences of shape”, but there is no logical support for that. Each process of the machine can continue on as it has, completing one mindless task after another, including mindless meta-tasks of associating many groups of data points with many other.

When we reduce the reds, blues, and yellows of light to ‘simply’ electromagnetic wavelengths, we are suggesting that some agent is converting a set of colorless data points into a a color. This is the explanatory gap. A surprisingly high percentage of the population has no trouble with outright denying that there is a gap at all, and will insist that color simply “is” the brain’s reaction to processing data about light. They do not see that processing of data need only be an invisible, functional interpretation of logical points, compressible to any kind of labeling scheme we like.

A brain could easily use biochemical, epigenetic, or quantum computation to label its vast oceans of data at high speed without having to invent flavors, colors, or feelings. Colors are not even the best example because visual qualia maps relatively isomorphically to optical measurements. The same is not true for flavors and emotions, which bear almost no resemblance to physics. If we allowed the brain to produce a single dimension of sense, there is no plausible reason to have to produce a second, any more than there would be a reason for a car’s dashboard to make a musical playlist to accompany itself. If for some reason a computer needed to see its own data, and it could somehow magically conjure that into existence out of its ‘complexity’, seeing would be more than enough to fulfill all data compression needs forever.

An interesting explanation for the inability of so many people to recognize the gap between function and qualia may be hinted at in Simon Baron-Cohen’s Empathizing–Systemizing (E-S) theory of brain types, and Crespi and Badcock’s paper Psychosis and autism as diametrical disorders of the social brain. I have already caught shit for proposing this, as it may sound like I am saying that autism is bad, or that people who favor functionalism are autistic, but that is actually the almost the opposite of what I am saying. What I think the truth is, or might be, is that everyone carries these diametrical potentials (which map to my ACME-OMMM dichotomy, btw) to some extent, and they reflect the continuum of human consciousness, philosophy of mind, and nature itself. This article had this to say about it:

In their forthcoming article in the premier journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Crespi and Badcock present a very convincing case for paranoid schizophrenia as an extreme female brain. Now the whole picture appears to be complete. When your brain is “too male,” too systemizing, too mechanistic, you become autistic. When your brain is “too female,” too empathizing, too mentalistic, you become paranoid schizophrenic. If the extreme male brain of an autistic is “mindblind,” then you might suggest that the extreme female brain of a paranoid schizophrenia is “logicblind.”

Again, to be clear, I am not advocating a clinical reductionism in psychology. I’m not advocating the labeling of autism this or male-female that. This is not about neuroscience or biology for me*, it is about metaphysics and ontology. The difference between representation and presentation, and how they are flipped again and again within nature, and how they are both lenses which define each other.

Part II of this post here.

*I don’t blame people for having a negative reaction to this kind of science, as far as using terms like ‘extreme male brain’ in itself sounds like the product of ‘extreme male’ thinking. It seems crass and inaccurate to go down that road of categorizing people and pathologizing psychological differences as disorders, but I will take what I can get. I think that this research is on to something, regardless of how it may sound.

  1. Dan
    August 30, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Craig,

    Thank you very much for this post. You have really put your finger on something here, I think. I myself have had similar intuitions when it comes to why some people simply don’t “get” the idea of religion/God/mystical experiences and don’t see any problem with a world that is utterly mechanistic/deterministic and find no need to posit a first cause or God for it. Bracketing the question of the actual existence (or not) of God, I have always found it fascinating that religious and non-religious people can so often simply talk past one another because it appears that they simply don’t see what the other sees quite plainly. This “congenital blindness” I think goes a long way to explaining other kinds of disagreements on the nature of mind, as your post clearly points out.

    • August 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks Dan!

      I would love it if some research was directed toward this issue. I think it’s important and very topical now.

  1. March 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

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